Queen Anne’s Bowl­ing Al­ley shuts its doors

Record Observer - - News - By PETER HECK pheck@thekent­coun­tynews.com

CHESTERTOWN — The Queen Anne’s Bowl­ing Al­ley and En­ter­tain­ment Cen­ter on Church Hill Road has closed its doors.

The busi­ness was owned by Franklin T. Ho­gans Sr., who died in De­cem­ber. The de­ci­sion to close it was made this summer, his son Franklin T. Ho­gans Jr. said in a phone in­ter­view Mon­day.

The bowl­ing al­ley closed for the summer in May, and was sched­uled to re­open this month. How­ever, the younger Ho­gans wrote in an email Aug. 18, “I am sad to re­port that the busi­ness will not be re­open­ing. This is due to fi­nan­cial con­sid­er­a­tions. The Es­tate wishes to thank all the bowlers who have sup­ported the bowl­ing al­ley over the years.”

The re­ac­tion from pa­trons showed how much of an in­sti­tu­tion the bowl­ing al­ley had been. Tom Hol­lidge of Bet­ter­ton, who bowled at Queen Anne’s for 20 years, said, “It’s a disas­ter for some of the old peo­ple.” He said there were many high school- and col­lege-age bowlers among the pa­trons, as well.

One long­time user was Jef­frey Fer­rand of Sal­is­bury, who bowled at the lane since 1988, when his lo­cal duck­pin lanes closed. “It took me as long to drive up there as it did for the league games,” he said in a phone in­ter­view Tues­day. A mem­ber of the duck­pin pro­fes­sional tour since 1948, he par­tic­i­pated in lo­cal leagues on Sun­day and Tues­day nights at Queen Anne’s, and was sec­re­tary/ trea­surer of the Tues­day league. Now, Fer­rand said, the clos­est duck­pin lane is in Sev­erna Park. There is a ten­pin lane in Mid­dle­town, Del. that some of the Queen Anne’s reg­u­lars are now bowl­ing at, he said.

Fer­rand said there were 12 teams in the Tues­day league when he be­gan com­ing to Queen Anne’s, with an­other four or five on the wait­ing list. Par­tic­i­pa­tion grad­u­ally fell off, he said, and the last few years the league had eight teams with three mem­bers each in­stead of the usual four. A Satur­day ju­nior league has been gone for sev­eral years, he said.

Fer­rand wasn’t the only pa­tron who came a long dis­tance to bowl at Queen Anne’s. He said the man who drove him came from his job in Ocean City to participate in the Tues­day league games.

Nancy Miller of Chestertown said she had been bowl­ing at the Queen Anne’s al­ley since it opened in 1962. “I started with ten­pins and went to duck­pins,” she said. She made the change be­cause her other fam­ily mem­bers were bowl­ing duck­pins. “It’s a good way to meet peo­ple,” she said of bowl­ing.

Miller said she en­joyed bowl­ing with the three-man teams in the Tues­day league as well as with the Wed­nes­day women’s league. She said she learned of the clos­ing in an Aug. 15 email from Fer­rand can­celling the or­ga­ni­za­tional meet­ing for the leagues.

“A lot of women from Rock Hall would like to go back to bowl­ing,” Miller said. She said most of them weren’t in­ter­ested in go­ing to Sev­erna Park to bowl be­cause of the long drive. “I hope some­body buys it and opens it up again,” she said of the Queen Anne’s lanes.

There had been a gen­eral de­cline in the busi­ness’s cash flow over the last sev­eral years, Ho­gans said. He spec­u­lated that video games, the in­ter­net and other ac­tiv­i­ties ap­peal­ing to young peo­ple may be partly re­spon­si­ble. He said a new owner might be able to re­vive the busi­ness by re­cast­ing it as a sports bar ap­peal­ing to a young de­mo­graphic, with bowl­ing as one of the at­trac­tions. “It has a liquor li­cense and a restau­rant,” he said. He said the busi­ness would prob­a­bly ben­e­fit from an ac­tively in­volved owner.

On the bowl­ing al­ley’s web­site, it is ad­ver­tised as “only duck­pin fa­cil­ity on the Eastern Shore.” The web­site de­scribes duck­pins as “al­most the same as ten pin bowl­ing, except the ball and pins are smaller.” Be­cause of the smaller ball, its easier for chil­dren to learn, the web­site says. The game re­tains a re­gional fol­low­ing around Bal­ti­more and in parts of New Eng­land, but never gained pop­u­lar­ity out­side those ar­eas.

The late Louisa Car­pen­ter, a Du Pont heiress with a strong lo­cal pres­ence, bought the prop­erty at 6401 Church Hill Road in early 1962 from Thomas Rogers. Con­struc­tion of the bowl­ing al­ley be­gan al­most im­me­di­ately, and the opening of Colo­nial Queen Anne’s Bowl­ing Lanes was an­nounced in the sports sec­tion of the Kent County News Sept. 26, 1962.

The ar­ti­cle — as much a pro­mo­tional piece as a news story — in­cluded pho­tos of the man­ag­ing di­rec­tor, former base­ball star Bill “Swish”

Ni­chol­son, and the pro­mo­tional di­rec­tor, John Ben­jamin.

The story em­pha­sized the new busi­ness’s “plush” ameni­ties, in­clud­ing the large park­ing lot, the glass doors and walls, the snack bar, the nurser y, wall-to-wall cap-rept­ing and air con­di­tion­ing, even

the PA sys­tem. The snack bar was op­er­ated by Rob Gra­ham, owner of the Tas­tee-Freez on Wash­ing­ton Av­enue north of Chestertown.

The ar­ti­cle noted that sev­eral bowl­ing leagues, for both ten­pins and duck­pins, were al­ready or­ga­nized. How­ever, Ni­chol­son promised there would al­ways be lanes kept avail­able for open bowl­ing.

Over the years, the bowl­ing al­ley fea­tured pro­mo­tions such as ladies’ nights, spe­cial prices for birth­days,

char­ity events and moon­light bowl­ing. It also hosted a Sun­day flea mar­ket and corn­hole tour­na­ments.

In the same is­sue of the pa­per was an ad for the Chestertown Bowl­ing Cen­ter at 101 Can­non St., un­til then the only bowl­ing al­ley in the area. Allen Harte, the owner and man­ager, must have seen the writ­ing on the wall when he learned the new lanes were about to open, with a lo­cal celebrity at the helm and the Car­pen­ter money be­hind it.

His wor­ries were jus­ti­fied; in 1965, the Can­non Street prop­erty was fore­closed by the bank, while the Queen Anne’s bowl­ing al­ley has re­mained in busi­ness un­til now.

Ho­gans said the Queen Anne’s Bowl­ing Al­ley has been on the mar­ket for sale or lease for “a cou­ple of years,” but with the de­ci­sion not ro re­open it, sell­ing it has be­come a higher pri­or­ity.

The on­line prop­erty list­ing says the busi­ness has 24 lanes, a snack

bar and a li­cense to sell beer and wine. In ad­di­tion to the bowl­ing lanes, there are ar­cade games, a pool room and minia­ture golf. The prop­erty con­sists of 3.25 com­mer­cially zoned acres with room for other uses and a pos­si­ble sub­di­vi­sion, the list­ing says.

The prop­erty is listed for $950,000. For in­for­ma­tion on buy­ing or leas­ing the busi­ness, con­tact es­hore­re­alty@gmail.com or call 410-778-7070.

PHOTO BY PETER HECK

The Queen Anne’s Bowl­ing Al­ley and En­ter­tain­ment Cen­ter has closed its doors af­ter 54 years. Franklin T. Ho­gans Jr., whose father bought the busi­ness in 2004, said the clos­ing was the re­sult of fi­nan­cial con­sid­er­a­tions. The prop­erty is listed for sale or lease.

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